wJan 23, 2006

Will you stand by while our government allows children to hold firearms?

I guess I never really blogged about this certain issue because it was too close at the time. I vaguely mentioned it here. But on this past Thanksgiving Day, the 14-year-old brother of my friend Brian was shot in the back by a 12-year-old, and died. It was a horrible, preventable, terrible thing, and I don't know if I've ever felt so awful about death except maybe when Matt committed suicide.

On Friday, the Wisconsin State Assembly decided that it would be a good idea to lower the age of legal gun usage for hunting from 12 to 8 years old. Children aged 8-11 would have to be within arms' reach of of an adult. The requirement of attending hunter's safety course, however, will not be lowered. Under the proposed legislation, children under 12 will not have to attend the courses. This bill passed 79-19 in the legislature.

The reason the bill was introduced was because hunting is important to the economy of Wisconsin. The author of the bill was a representative from Waterford, Scott Gunderson. His rationale includes: "It's important to get kids involved in hunting at a younger age. If they are not engaged in hunting by 12 or 13, they probably won't be," Gunderson said. Also, "The other big issue is parental rights. This allows them to make a decision whether a child can hunt at an earlier age," Gunderson said.
In tomorrow's Daily Cardinal, you will also be able to read that Gunderson has also said that the deer population in Wisconsin needs to be controlled. And so, instead of increasing the legally permitted ratio of hunter-to-deer, he wants to allow 8-year-olds to do this. Nevermind that this makes no sense - for one thing, I don't foresee an 8-year-old bagging too many bucks. Also, since 8-11-year-olds need a supervisor within arm's length, then that supervisor will not be able to shoot any deer!

A sack of crap if I ever heard one. Parental rights is about the lamest rationale I can think of. Also, children can still get involved in hunting under current legislation. And seriously, I don't think having them wait a few years is going to make a difference.

Hunting is not decreasing because children are not allowed to hunt. Hunting is decreasing because people buy their meat in grocery stores. Because cities and suburbs are expanding. The world is changing. We are evolving. We cannot possibly hope to control wildlife population by putting lethal weapons into the hands of children. It is deplorable that any elected official would look to this as an answer to appease voters! Anyone who thinks about it knows it's true. There is no rational reason for children so young to be handling guns that their bodies are not even able to control.

I think the quotes given by Brian's dad to the press are the most important to listen to. Joe Slattery, whose 14-year-old son was accidentally killed by a 12-year-old with a shotgun after a deer drive in Marinette County on Thanksgiving Day last year, is horrified.

Both his son and the boy who shot him had taken hunter safety courses.

"The 12-year-old was switching positions on the gun and didn't realize the safety was off. It accidentally went off," Green Bay area resident Slattery said in a phone interview.

Slattery was not with the hunting party, but there were four adults with the two boys, and one of them was an emergency medical technician.

"This is a child safety issue," said Slattery, who stresses that he is not anti-hunting nor anti-gun.

"Eight-year-olds don't have the coordination or attention span or physical ability to handle a gun. They are learning cursive writing and some of them believe in Santa Claus," he said.

"My tragedy has happened. Don't put another family through it."

The Appleton Post-Crescrent writes The average 8-year-old is about 4 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs about 60 pounds. Whether the mentor is an arm's length away or 10 yards away, it's still the child who's shooting a gun — and who must control it.

I know you all read my blog and are aware that I feel passionately on a lot of issues. I don't know if I have ever felt so passionately about anything before. This legislation cannot go through. We cannot count on the Governor to veto it - with votes like these, they might even be able to override the veto. Your representatives can't represent you if they don't hear you, and quite honestly, is there any logical reason why an 8-year-old needs to hunt? Please, please, call your State Senator (the Representatives in the House have already voted).

It makes me physically ill that this bill passed with so few dissenting votes. What kind of society do we live in, if our legislators put guns in the hands of children to solve problems like wildlife control and economic problems. It is certainly not a society that I approve of. I hate feeling powerless in situations like these. Why are our laws created by people who answer to money? It is a disgusting way to run society. But all I can ask is: what can I do? I can make phone calls to my representatives, and I can do my best to make sure you do the same. If you live in Wisconsin, please do. And please ask your friends to do the same.

Go to this site and you can type in your address to find the contact information for your state representatives. If you need more details to know what happens when you call your legislator or how else you can contact them, please see this post.

EDIT: The Daily Cardinal has published Tuesday's paper online already, and you can read the story itself here as well as the and their excellent opinion article here.
scribbled mystickeeper at 11:05 PM

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